Thursday, February 24, 2011

Police shooting leads to localized uprising in Maadi

The police shooting of a micro-bus driver on Thursday, in Cairo's district of Maadi, led to a localized uprising against police on the street. Two police pickup trucks were torched in retaliation, and protesters threatened to burn down the Saqr Qureish Police-Station nearby.

The police officer responsible for the shooting was beaten unconscious. Both the driver and officer were rushed-off to hospital; the driver is reported to have died of his injuries.

Hundreds of locals then held a protest-stand against police brutality in Al-Jaza'ir Square, where the shooting took place; it went on past midnight. Young activists said they will continue with their protest on Friday - in Tahrir Square.

The officer and micro-bus driver scuffled with each other by the Al-Jaza'ir Square roundabout. Eyewitnesses claim the police officer fired a warning shot into the air, and then shot the driver. The officer was then confronted and righteously beaten by an angry crowd.

Protesters and bystanders inspect, photograph and probe the burnt police truck.

Some of those present expressed anger for the driver, others expressed joy and satisfaction for the retaliation; while others said that they would confront all police transgressions - in the courts, and on the streets.

"What did this poor man do to deserve this? To die? The police will never straighten-up; they're back to their old ways" reads the sign. This anti-police protest in Al-Jaza'ir Square will be relocated to Tahrir Square.

Over a million are expected to protest in Tahrir Square, on Friday, over unmet demands of the revolution including: the lifting of emergency law, and the dissolution of the State-Security Police Apparatus...amongst many other demands.

Workers & professionals demand independent unions

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Workers, professionals demand independent labor unions

Thu, 24/02/2011

Jano Charbel

The large and ongoing wave of labor and professional protests sweeping Egypt, prior to and since the 11 February ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, has been driven by democratic and organizational demands, along with economic demands. Workers, employees and professionals across the country have been demanding the establishment of trade unions and professional syndicates/associations that are democratically elected, accountable and recallable.

In Cairo, thousands of Public Transport Authority workers are demanding the establishment of independent trade union committees beyond the confines of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). Some 20,000 public-sector Mahalla Textile Company workers have also raised the same organizational demands.

"We have collected 15,000 signatures from among the workers demanding the recall of our so-called union committee and the election of a new and representative union,” said worker and labor organizer Kamal al-Fayyoumi. “We plan to present this petition to the High Military Council."

Al-Fayyoumi added: "I personally support the establishment of independent unions outside the structure of the corrupt ETUF, since the federation has never served the interests of workers and their unions, but rather the interests of Mubarak's ruling party and businessmen.”

“I've been trying to convince my fellow workers to establish an independent union, but many are reluctant to venture out into uncharted territories,” he added. “In any case, it isn’t illegal to have two or more different unions within the same workplace; the most effective and representative union will win the most workers in the end."

On Tuesday, the Lawyers' General Syndicate voted to suspend its president, Hamdy Khalifa, and his council until new elections are held. At the Journalists' General Syndicate, weeks of protests against Syndicate President Makram Mohamed Ahmed finally led to the latter’s resignation on Tuesday. Both Khalifa and Ahmed were close associates/advocates of the Mubarak regime.

Members of the Cinematographers' Syndicate have gone on strike, meanwhile, as others have been petitioning and protesting at their syndicate headquarters demanding the resignation of their syndicate president and council.

Similarly, members of the Musicians' General Syndicate in Cairo have been protesting for more than 22 days for the impeachment of their syndicate head, Mounir al-Wesseim. These professional musicians and performers argue that their syndicate is corrupt and does not represent or serve them in any meaningful capacity. They have been demanding that new elections be held and that the syndicate compensate them for dues and fees deducted from their earnings.

Singer Amal Khaled pointed to the bylaws of this syndicate, which stipulate that a dues-paying member of five years has the right to vote in syndicate elections. "I've been a member of this syndicate for the past 25 years, but I still don't have the right to vote,” he said. “We want to know where all our money--millions upon millions of pounds--has gone.”

"Wesseimi and his gang, and the gangs before him, had only served to collect dues and fees,” she added. “They have offered us no services in return; thousands of us aren’t even allowed to vote." The singer angrily added: "We are putting Wesseimi and his stooges in this syndicate council on trial. We are demanding that early elections be held, with all eligible members being given the right to vote."

On Wednesday, over 2000 employees of state-owned petroleum and gas companies also protested outside the Ministry of Petroleum. Hundreds of these employees have been sitting-in and sleeping-in outside the ministry for the past week. They have been demanding fulltime contracts and benefits and the right to establish trade unions at their companies, along with other demands.

Employees from the Gupco, Epsco, Petrojet, Butagasco and Petrotrade companies (all of which are affiliated with the Ministry of Petroleum) are also demanding the removal of corrupt administrative figures from their respective companies, along with the establishment of a minimum and maximum wage for employees and administrators.

"The establishment of trade unions at our companies is a secondary demand, but still it is an essential demand,” said Petrojet employee Mahmoud Abdallah. “We need unions to protect our rights and to improve our contracts, wages, working conditions, benefits and pension plans."

Karim Reda, who was sacked from the Petrotrade Company in December 2009 for calling to unionize employees, said: "Most of these protesting employees want to establish a trade union of any sort, whether independent or within the ETUF structure.”

The overwhelming majority of workers have no experience in union organizing, so most protest leaders are calling for the establishment of trade unions within the ETUF and its General Union of Petroleum Workers. Although many know that the federation is on its way to collapse, they nevertheless want to put forth their demands through official channels, until new channels are made available."

Addressing an audience of workers, professionals and activists earlier this week, labor organizer Kamal Abu Eita said: "I expect and trust that the ETUF will collapse this year. Many workers are demanding the establishment of independent unions, but many others insist on remaining within the structure of the federation because they are about to go into retirement and receive pension plans, insurance plans, etc."

"When the federation does collapse, workers will start looking for alternatives through which they can organize themselves,” Abu Eita added. “We must not wait for the collapse of the federation; we must reclaim our rights to organize. All we need is to collect signatures from workplaces and present them to the authorities, whether the High Military Council or the Ministry of Manpower."

“We need not heed the restrictive labor and union laws which were put in force by previous regimes,” he said. “We will establish our own customary laws in compliance with international labor and human rights standards to which Egypt is party."

Abu Eita is president of the Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees, Egypt's first independent union since 1957. Over the past two years this independent union, established in April 2009, has been joined by other independent unions and syndicates, including the independent Teachers' Syndicate, the Health Technologists' Syndicate and the Pensioners' Syndicate.

On 30 January these independent trade unions and professional syndicates grouped themselves into an independent federation. The federation is still in its formative stages, and does not yet have an official title or bylaws. Nonetheless, this independent federation is seen as an increasingly viable alternative to the ETUF. The ETUF's upper echelons are chosen through indirect elections; 22 out of 24 general union presidencies within the federation hailed from Mubarak's ruling party.

The finances of ETUF President Hussein Megawer, meanwhile, along with other ETUF officials, are currently being scrutinized by prosecutors. Megawer's bank accounts have been frozen and he has been prevented from leaving the country until investigations are concluded.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday's Protests in Tahrir Square & Downtown Cairo

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, tens of thousands showed-up to protest for unmet demands in Tahrir Square; and to stand in solidarity with the "February 17 Uprising" outside the Libyan Embassy.

Elsewhere, musicians protested outside their syndicate headquarters in downtown Cairo, on Sherif Street. Over 100 musician-protesters briefly blocked-off the street, held-up signs reading "Where's our money?" and chanted slogans in which they demanded the recall of their Syndicate President, Mounir el-Wesseimi.

They also demanded monetary compensations for their dues and membership fees. Members of the Musicians' Syndicate receive virtually no services from their syndicate.

Standing in solidarity with the Libyan people and their democratic uprising, a protester in Tahrir Square holds up a sign - save Libyans, and kill Gaddafi.

Protesters keep returning to Tahrir Square - in the millions, because they still have numerous unmet demands. A large banner hung-up between two lampposts spelled out the demands:

*No to the interim cabinet of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq - Mubarak's handpicked puppet.
*Yes to an interim presidential council - including two civilian figures, and one military figure
*Yes for the immediate release of all political prisoners/prisoners of conscience.
*Yes to lifting/terminating the emergency law - enforced under Mubarak's Dictatorship for 30 years
*Yes for the dissolution of the State Security (Political Police) Apparatus
*Yes to the combating of corruption - and trial of corrupt officials

The central part of the square was flooded with water to keep protesters from camping or congregating there; while for the first time, the lampposts in Tahrir Square were not lit.

Amidst this darkness, military police and plain-clothed thugs forcefully dispersed hundreds of protesters who wanted to sit-in or sleep-in at the Square. When the curfew came into effect (midnight) the authorities utilized thuggery, threats and intimidation to remove protesters from the square.

Nevertheless, another million-person protest in Tahrir Square is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 25. The people's democratic demands will be put forth, and unmet demands will be raised once again.

Over 560 Killed in Libyan Uprising

Times LIVE
Opposition says over 560 killed in Libya

Feb 22, 2011

By Sapa-dpa

More than 560 people have been killed in Libya since the unrest began, according to estimates by the opposition. About 1,400 people were still missing, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported Tuesday.

An unconfirmed number of bodies of people killed in the protests in Janzour, a town on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, were lying on the streets Tuesday, an opposition news website reported.

The Libya al-Youm website reported that armed men were preventing people from leaving Janzour.

However, the mood in Benghazi, which saw some of the worst bloodshed of the Libyan uprising, was calmer Tuesday. But protests continued as hundreds slept outside the city's central courthouse overnight, a resident told the German Press Agency dpa by telephone.

The widening protests entered their seventh day on Tuesday, following Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's 20-second appearance on state television overnight to refute reports that he had fled the capital.

Gaddafi - sitting in a car in Tripoli holding an umbrella - said: "I am in Tripoli. I am not in Venezuela."

The footage was broadcast after 24 hours of speculation that Libya's leader of 41 years had left for South America.

A resident in coastal Benghazi, where at least 230 people are thought to have been killed in recent days according to Human Rights Watch, said: "Some people were scared. Families and children went home after Gaddafi's remarks. But many stayed until early morning and others slept outside the courthouse."

The resident, who only wanted to be named as Fathi, for fear of reprisals, said that the Saaka, or Libyan marines, had joined the protesters in Benghazi and promised security.

"Removing the government is the number one demand of protesters because there is a lot of bloodshed, there is no way they will back up on their demands," Fathi told dpa.

The death toll from the protests calling for Gaddafi's ouster is expected to have reached 150 in Tripoli, according to witnesses.

Other cities are also reporting deaths but casualty figures for areas beyond the capital are difficult to independently verify due to the government's clampdown on communications and travel.

The chaotic situation in Libya is to be discussed in a closed session of the United Nations Security Council in New York.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday called for an international independent investigation into the violent suppression of the protests.

"Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity," said the UN's Navi Pillay.

Several overseas Libyan diplomats have resigned in protest at the regime's crackdown.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference also joined in condemning the violence, saying it considered the violence against protesters in Libya "a humanitarian disaster incompatible with Islamic and human values."

Unconfirmed reports speak of foreign militias gunning down demonstrators, snipers in the capital and the Libyan air force shooting at protesters from the air.

On Monday two Libyan fighter jets landed in Malta, with their pilots defecting in revolt at the command to attack demonstrators.

The demonstrations follow popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, where long-time rulers were ousted.

The Egyptian Army has meanwhile announced that the border to Libya would be open for anyone who wants to flee and Egyptian aid convoys are on hand to assist.

However, according to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, the runway of Benghazi airport has been totally destroyed and no planes will be able to land there to bring back hundreds of Egyptians working in Libya.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Volunteers of the Revolution - Overgrow the State

Since January 28th Egyptian volunteers have independently organized themselves to protect their neighborhoods, conduct and direct traffic, repair and clean-up streets, and even provide free health-care clinics, along with free food and drink.

Egyptian civil society has proved that it can fend for itself, and service itself with little or no help from the state. All these services were efficiently made available without the state's bureaucracy, red-tape and corruption.

Youth volunteers have been conducting/directing traffic, repairing and cleaning-up streets, and repainting sidewalks for the past month.

Neighborhood-based squads of youth volunteers clean the streets of Nasr City, Cairo. Pooling their resources, the volunteers purchased garbage-cans (of all sizes) and lined them along the streets.

Thousands of volunteers repainted sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, with their collectively-purchased paint and brushes. Other volunteers distributed garbage-bags among passersby - to assist in the communal clean-up effort.

A genuine sense of hope and progressive change can be felt throughout the country. A revolutionary awakening is underway!

Egyptians are capable of both overthrowing, and overgrowing the state.

Anger on streets of Iran, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco & China
Anger on the streets: unrest in Iran, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco and China

Nora Fakim, Giles Tremlett, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Tania Branigan & agencies

Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

Peaceful demonstrations staged in Morocco but violence breaks out elsewhere in the Middle East and Chinese police crackdown on planned unrest

MOROCCO: Peaceful protests against prime minister

Thousands took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakech in peaceful protests demanding a new constitution, a change in government and an end to corruption.

Sunday's protests were a test for King Mohamed VI's regime, which boasts that it is more liberal and tolerant than other countries in the region that have seen violence and revolution.

Despite a heavy secret police presence, uniformed police stayed in the background as demonstrators carefully avoided overt criticism of the king or Islamist chanting. "Where has the money gone?", "The people of Morocco want change" and "We need a new constitution" were among the cries of 5,000 marchers in the capital, Rabat.

"The atmosphere today is peaceful, as it is in our Moroccan nature to be peaceful," a 50-year-old doctor, Mohamed Bebakri, said.

Said Benjibli, the creator of Facebook protest group and one of the few prepared to complain about the monarch, said: "The king has too much power and he needs to distribute more money to the people." Much of the rage was directed against prime minister Abbas El Fassi and his many family members in government posts.

IRAN: Thousands dispersed with teargas and batons

Riot police and plainclothed basiji militia fired teargas and wielded batons to disperse thousands of defiant protesters commemorating the death of two pro-democracy demonstrators killed during anti-government protests last week.

Supporters of the Green Movement gathered in scattered groups for the second time within a week to denounce the death of Saane Zhaleh, 26, and Mohammadi Mokhtari, 22, who were killed in Tehran on Monday. An opposition website affiliated to Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate, said that one person had been killed in Haft-e-Tir square in central Tehran when security forces opened fire at protesters. Dozens were arrested.

Iran's IRNA state news agency reported that Faezeh Rafsanjani, the daughter of influential cleric and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, had been arrested in Tehran but semi-official FARS news agency reported later that she had been released.

Iran had banned foreign media based in Tehran from reporting the protest. Instead, the opposition turned to social networking websites to spread their voice. Opposition websites claimed the protests reached other big cities, including Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad and Sanandaj with scenes similar to those in the capital, Tehran.

The Green Wave opposition grouo announced that Ahmad Maleki, the vice-consulate at the consulate general of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Milan, had defected. He is the forth diplomat to defect since Iran's post-election unrest in 2009.

ALGERIA: Police separate crowds with clubs and shields

Police thwarted a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters, breaking up the crowd into isolated groups to keep them from marching.

Police brandishing clubs, but no firearms, weaved their way through the crowd in central Algiers, banging their shields, tackling some protesters and keeping traffic flowing through the planned march route. A demonstrating politician was hospitalised after suffering a head wound when he fell after police kicked and hit him, colleagues said. The gathering, organised by the Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria, comes a week after a similar protest, which organisers said brought an estimated 10,000 people and up to 26,000 riot police on to the streets of Algiers. Algeria has also been hit by numerous strikes over the past month.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has promised to lift the state of emergency, which has been in place since early 1992 to combat a budding insurgency by Islamist extremists. The insurgency, which continues sporadically, has killed about 200,000 people. Bouteflika has warned, however, that a longstanding ban on protests in Algiers would remain in place, even once the state of emergency was lifted.

Algeria has many of the ingredients for a popular revolt. It is riddled with corruption and has never successfully grappled with its soaring jobless rate among its youth, estimated by some to be up to 42% despite its oil and gas wealth.

"The people are for change, but peacefully," said sociologist Nasser Djebbi. "We have paid a high price."

YEMEN: Unrest continues for ninth consecutive day

The leader of Yemen's secessionist Southern Movement, Hasan Baoum, was arrested by an "armed military group" in an Aden hospital, according to his son, and shots were fired at a demonstration in the capital Sana'a, as unrest continued for a ninth consecutive day.

Thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz, demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who renewed his call for opposition parties to pursue a dialogue with the government. Security in the southern port of Aden was stepped up with tanks and armoured vehicles out on the main streets.

CHINA: Crackdown after call for 'jasmine revolution'

Chinese security officials questioned or detained scores of activists at the weekend and warned others against staging protests after an online call was made for demonstrations in 13 cities, campaigners said.

The message, posted on an overseas website on Saturday, was titled: "The jasmine revolution in China". The swift crackdown underlined the anxiety of authorities in the wake of the Egypt uprising and protests across the Middle East.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy estimated that more than 100 activists across the country were taken away by police, prevented from leaving home or were missing.

Wang Songlian, of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders network, said more than 40 campaigners or dissidents had been summoned or questioned by police or placed under "soft detention" at home or elsewhere. In many more cases, police had visited people to ask them what they were doing or warn them not to take part, she said.

"[The message] linked it to the jasmine revolution and I guess that made the government nervous," she said. "It really shows us how much the government has identified with regimes in the Middle East where people are so aggrieved about social injustice."

Despite a huge police presence at the proposed demonstration locations, there were signs that at least a handful of people in Beijing and Shanghai had hoped to protest.

It is not clear who posted the call for demonstrations on the Boxun website, and the message may well have come from abroad. Many mainland activists appeared to have been unaware of it until police contacted them.

The message said: "You and I are Chinese people who will still have a dream for the future ... we must act responsibly for the future of our descendants."

It urged people to shout demands for food, work, housing and fairness.

Egypt's Workers Rise Up

The Nation
Egypt's Workers Rise Up

February 17, 2011

Joel Beinin

“Egyptian Workers Join the Revolution,” proclaimed the headline of Al-Ahram, the government-owned daily, the day before ex-President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Tens of thousands of workers—in textiles, military production, transportation, petroleum, cement, iron and steel, hospitals, universities, telecommunications and the Suez Canal—participated in strikes or protests in the three days before Mubarak’s departure. Although it is too soon to render a definitive judgment, the demographic and economic weight of workers in the popular uprising was likely one of the factors that persuaded Egypt’s military chiefs to ask Mubarak to step aside.

From the start, workers participated in the demonstrations as individuals. It was only toward the end that they registered their presence as organized workers. This is partly because the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the only legal union in Egypt, functions as an arm of the state. Unlike the General Union of Tunisian Workers, neither ETUF nor any of its affiliated unions joined the insurgent forces. As they have for more than a decade, Egyptian workers who sought to engage in collective action had to do so in the face of concerted opposition from the official union apparatus.

Much of the attention of the media and think-tank analysts has focused on the grievances of youth and their use of Facebook and other social media to mobilize the insurgent movement. The high unemployment rate of educated Egyptians under 30 and their facility with web technologies were undoubtedly major factors in launching the uprising. However, the events of January–February followed a decade of escalating mobilizations among many different sectors of Egyptian society—committees in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in opposition to the US invasion of Iraq; the Kifaya (Enough) movement for democracy; doctors, judges, professors; and, above all, industrial and white-collar workers.

Since 1998 well more than 2 million workers have participated in some 3,500 strikes, sit-ins and other forms of protest. There have been major strikes in nearly every sector of the Egyptian economy, including one in December 2006 and another in September 2007 at the mammoth Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra and a five-month struggle at the newly privatized Tanta Linen Company in 2009. The April 6 Youth Movement takes its name from a call for a general strike on that date in 2008; it did not occur because of severe repression.

Workers’ collective actions over the past decade have usually targeted bread-and-butter issues—the failure of owners of newly privatized enterprises to abide by the terms of the contracts in force before privatization, as the law requires; failure to pay long-overdue bonuses, incentives and other wage supplements; failure of public enterprises to pay workers their share of profits; fear of large-scale firings before or after privatization; and low wages. Many observers wondered if or when workers might raise “political” demands, failing to understand that in an autocracy, organizing large numbers of people outside state strictures is in itself a political act.

At the appropriate moment, workers did not hesitate to fuse economic and political demands. On February 9, Cairo transport workers went on strike and announced that they would be forming an independent union. According to Hossam el-Hamalawy, a well-informed blogger and labor journalist, their statement also called for abolishing the emergency law in force for decades, removing the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) from state institutions, dissolving Parliament (fraudulently elected in 2010), drafting a new Constitution, forming a national unity government, prosecuting corrupt officials and establishing a basic national minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month (about $215).

The call for a 1,200-pound minimum wage is the one nationwide demand that emerged out of the decade-long Egyptian workers’ movement. Last year the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, an NGO recently established to support the workers’ movement, took the issue to court. It won a partial victory when the government responded to the court’s order and raised the monthly minimum wage from 106 pounds (less than $20) to 400 pounds (about $73).

This would still leave a typical family of five with two breadwinners under or close to the poverty line of $2 a day, even with bonuses and other wage supplements. Although inadequate, this is one of many instances when workers won significant economic gains through striking and collective action. In the 2000s, unlike in the 1980s and ’90s, the government did not routinely repress workers’ protests by massive violence, including shooting strikers dead. The cumulative effect of the workers’ movement taught millions of Egyptians that it was possible to win something through struggle and that the regime, perhaps because it feared scaring away foreign capital, would likely respond with only limited repression.

The workers’ movement has been sustained in the face of fierce opposition from ETUF leaders, many of whom are also officials in the NDP. Egyptian law requires that all trade unions affiliate with the ETUF. Nonetheless, two independent unions were established in the course of the past decade’s labor struggles—real estate tax authority workers in 2008 and healthcare technicians in 2010. One of the less noted aspects of the popular uprising was a press release on January 30 in which these two independent unions and representatives of workers from a dozen factory towns declared their intention to form a new union federation independent of the ETUF. This was the first attempt to establish a new institution based on the popular upsurge—a revolutionary act, since, of course, it is illegal. By the day of Mubarak’s resignation there were banners in Tahrir Square proclaiming, The Independent Trade Union Federation Demands an End to the Regime.

The generals now ruling Egypt have banned meetings of trade unions and called for calm. Nonetheless, thousands of public sector workers, including ambulance drivers, airport and public transport workers and even police, took to the streets, demanding higher pay, three days after Mubarak’s resignation. Since their unions do not represent them adequately, and they are not a party to the negotiations with the generals over Egypt’s political future, this is the only vehicle workers have for asserting their demands. The army seems resolved to implement minimalist reforms and leave the essential character of the Mubarak regime unchanged. The extent to which workers and others remain mobilized and willing to take to the streets may determine the extent to which popular aspirations for democracy and social justice are realized.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Revolutionary Street Art & Graffiti

Young artists have beautified Cairo's streets with their revolutionary images and messages. However, this graffiti and street art is being covered-up and painted-over. Walls and army tanks have been repainted to erase these messages of freedom. Please post on-line any photos you have of such street art in order to keep them from being erased and forgotten.

The backside of the massive governmental building known as El Mogamaa' has been adorned with graffiti and murals.

Muslim and Christian prayers for more than 365 martyrs who died for Egypt's revolution and freedom since January 25th. Bible and Quran are held-up together at a street memorial, candlelight vigil near Tahrir Square.

Family sits by mural reading "We are all Khaled Said." In memory of the youth-blogger who was brutally beaten to death by police on the streets of Alexandria on June 6, 2010.

"Love & Freedom" - Egypt

Power to the people and their revolutions.

Despite official efforts to remove graffiti and street art from view/memory, new pieces and mural are being painted across the city. To keep the spirit of the revolution alive, a number of young artists have announced that they will continue painting more of their revolutionary images and messages across Cairo's streets.

Photos: 'Victory Friday' in Tahrir Square

Nationwide rallies were held in honor of Egypt's revolution, and its fallen heroes, on Friday (Feb. 18.) Several millions celebrated the downfall of Dictator Mubarak, while demanding the removal of his puppets - Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, and his NDP cabinet.

Youth activists hold-up signs calling for the dissolution of the notorious State-Security apparatus, the removal of Mubarak's ministers, and for the return of billions of dollars stolen by the Egyptian dictator and his gang of thieves.

Egyptians brought their families out to celebrate the revolution on Friday. Youths and families gathered around, and on top of, army tanks to take photos. A military policeman and military policewoman stand on top.

Millions came out to celebrate, to honor the revolution's martyrs, and to demand the release of all political prisoners, along with the lifting of the emergency law - under which Egypt has been governed for the past 30 years.

Estimates suggest that over three million Egyptians converged on Tahrir Square on Friday; while millions of other celebrated in the public squares of Alexandria, Mansoura and Suez amongst other cities.

Egyptians celebrate Mubarak's fall, demand reforms

Washington Post
Egypt protesters mark Mubarak's fall, call for more reforms
Friday, February 18, 2011

By Ian Saleh, Leila Fadel and Muhammed Mansour

Protesters took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere across Egypt on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians joined nationwide demonstrations Friday to mark the fall a week ago of President Hosni Mubarak and to press the country's military leadership to implement democratic reforms.

The gatherings emphasized that the Feb. 11 ouster of Mubarak was only the start of reforms that demonstrators demanded during their 18-day revolution to end his 30-year, autocratic rule.

In apparent response to a public clamor for accountability, authorities arrested four Mubarak loyalists suspected of corruption, state news agencies announced Friday. The arrests came as prosecutors conduct investigations into charges of money laundering, graft and wasting public funds.

*Protesters continued their call for more reforms and the lifting of emergency laws passed during Mubarak's reign. As Ben Hubbard explained:

Rivaling the biggest crowds since their pro-democracy revolt began, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Egyptians packed into central Tahrir Square Friday for a day of celebration to mark the fall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak a week ago and push their new military rulers to steer the country toward reform.

Protest leaders addressed the sprawling crowd, saying rallies must go on until the military to do more to dismantle Mubarak's regime, which still holds considerable power even after his ousting.

Protesters want the army to dissolve the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, which was appointed by Mubarak in his final weeks and contains many of his stalwarts.

They also want the lifting of emergency laws that give police near unlimited powers of arrest. So far, the military has not moved on either issue, or on another demand for the release of thousands of political prisoners.

*There have also been efforts to probe the finances of Hosni Mubarak and his family. As AP reported:

Anti-corruption campaigners pressed Egypt's chief prosecutor Thursday for an investigation into the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his family, handing over documents that they say spotlight the kind of potentially improper financial dealings that may have allowed the former ruler and his relatives to amass a large fortune.

The family's wealth - speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion - has come under growing scrutiny since Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that under Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt's privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price - and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

Probing the Mubarak Family's Fortunes ($US 70 Billion?)

The Associated Press
Probe sought in Egypt of Mubarak family finances

Thurs. Feb.17, 2011

Associated Press

Anti-corruption campaigners pressed Egypt's chief prosecutor Thursday for an investigation into the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his family, handing over documents that they say spotlight the kind of potentially improper financial dealings that may have allowed the former ruler and his relatives to amass a large fortune.

The family's wealth - speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion - has come under growing scrutiny since Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that under Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt's privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price - and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

"This is the single largest plot against Egypt's wealth by one family," said Mamdouh Hamza, a participant in Thursday's meeting with the chief prosecutor.

Since his ouster, Mubarak has remained secluded in a gated villa in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, according to a government official who dismissed rumors that Egypt's ruler of 30 years has left for exile.

The Mubaraks have not commented publicly on the issue and do not have a spokesman. No evidence has been published to back up claims that Mubarak and his sons hold a vast fortune.

The chief prosecutor has imposed travel bans and frozen assets of several former senior officials and leading businessmen, but has not taken steps against the Mubaraks. The prosecutor does not have a spokesman.

At the center of the activists' complaint are records that raise questions about offshore companies and funds based or registered in Cyprus, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, Hamza said.

The most prominent of these is Bullion Co. Ltd., a Cyprus-registered firm in which both Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are listed as board members, according to documents filed with the Registrar's Office in the island nation. Bullion, meanwhile, also owns the London-based Medinvest Associates, which was set up by Gamal Mubarak in 1996.

Appearing on the board of both companies or in the funds are individuals who serve on the board, or in top executive positions, of EFG-Hermes, the Cairo-based Mideast investment bank. EFG Hermes has said Gamal Mubarak holds an 18 percent share in a subsidiary, EFG Hermes Private Equity, and that his link to the bank was made public before his political career.

The investment bank denied Thursday that it or any of the funds it manages has received any special treatment from the former regime.

EFG Hermes also said in a statement that it "does not manage any funds or portfolios for the family of the former president of Egypt." It stressed that it "received a statement from its executives confirming that they have no direct or indirect personal or financial ties" to Mubarak or his family, either locally or globally.

One of Bullion's board members, Izzet Ziwar Jarrah, told the AP: "I'm not involved, I'm not active on this."

Asked how he was on the board and not involved, he replied: "I'm on the board, like that. I'm not concerned at all."

Efforts to contact other Bullion's board members were unsuccessful.

None of the documents presented to the prosecutor - and previously reviewed by The Associated Press - necessarily indicate illegality in business dealings.

Hamza's group has been doing its own research, downloading bank documents and reviewing what has been published on the Mubaraks so far. The prosecutor must now take over, appointing lawyers and finance experts to the job, Hamza said.

He said the prosecutor did not say what his next step would be, but is likely to meet with the activists again next week.

Many of the top officials and army generals running Egypt in the transition period had close ties to the former regime, raising concerns by opposition activists that the interim rulers might shy away from investigating the Mubaraks.

Hamza said he believed the prosecutor is open to pursuing the case.

A delegation from the Egyptian Lawyers' Union met separately with the prosecutor Monday to press for an investigation. The group asked the prosecutor to request records from the Central Bank of Egypt and obtain information on properties the family owns.

Mubarak's salary as president was set by law, as stipulated under the constitution. A report published by the Cairo-based Ahram Center for Strategic and International Studies said that in fiscal 2007-08, Mubarak's salary, including stipends and various allowances, amounted to 4,500 Egyptian pounds ($765). Activists say the salary is now closer to 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,400).

The former president "was from a very modest family and didn't inherit wealth from his father," said Mohammed al-Damati, a member of the group. "Since the constitution prevents the president from using his position to do any business, any other wealth he has outside of his salary is considered acquired illegally."

Unlike other Arab leaders, particularly those in the oil rich Gulf nations, Mubarak was far from ostentatious. Whatever wealth he and his family may have had was rarely - if ever - flaunted.

The most prominent symbol of their presumed fortune that has surfaced was a townhouse in London's exclusive Knightsbridge district, which is listed to Gamal Mubarak and where he was said to have lived while working as an investment banker in the early 1990s.

The townhouse has become a focal point for many in Egypt as foreign governments begin to either enact, or consider imposing freezes on their assets.

Switzerland was the first to say it was moving to identify and freeze assets of Mubarak and his family.

The European Union said Tuesday it was considering a request from Egypt to freeze the assets of Mubarak's top aides. The EU said, however, that no such request had been submitted about Mubarak or his family.

On Thursday, the U.S. office in charge of preventing money laundering said it was ordering banks to apply greater scrutiny to accounts and transactions linked to Egypt political leaders.

Egypt has so far asked for asset freezes for one top Egyptian businessman and former ruling party official, as well as four former Cabinet ministers, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki. The request was made to "almost to all countries in the world, pre-emptively," he said. "It is mentioned that it is pre-emptive because there is no specific information of assets here or there."

Pressing the claims poses risks for Egypt's economy, with no clear consensus emerging yet on the part of anti-corruption campaigners and others on how far to push a potential case against the Mubaraks. The concerns stem from the way that many of the country's largest companies reached their size, say economists and experts.

"The businessmen you see today are the product of the regime," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist with the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi Fransi. "Everybody who made money in Mubarak's times is part of this."

The risk the country faces in this process is that the names of well-funded and reputable companies in which investors have pumped billions of dollars could be sullied by the association with businessmen or officials who either founded them or had direct dealings with them.

These companies could be "sidelined and excluded from potential foreign investors who might see them as a liability," he said.

*Associated Press correspondents Raphael Satter in London and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed reporting.

Mahalla Textile Workers Call for Independent Union

Ahram Online
Mahalla employees calls for independent syndicate

Thursday 17 Feb 2011

Marwa Hussein

The workers of Ghazl El-Mahalla, the largest public-owned spinning and weaving factory in Egypt, have announced plans to create an independent syndicate separate from the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, known to be controlled by the government.

Employees have started to collect signatures for the creation of the new syndicate. More than 3,000 of the factory's 20,000-strong workforce having signed a petition in favour of the move.

Ghazl El-Mahalla workers relaunched their strike yesterday after a three-day break but trouble arose after the army prevented a second shift of protesters from entering the factory premises and closed the enterprise for three days.

Mahalla Textile Workers Strike Despite Army Warnings

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Mahalla's textile workers strike despite army warnings
Thu, 17/02/2011

Jano Charbel

Some 20,000 workers went on strike at the state-owned Mahalla Textile Company on Wednesday morning, despite warnings from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces against labor protests. An army tank is strategically stationed outside the main gate of this massive industrial complex and several hundred textile workers are protesting within for improved working conditions, rights and wages.

The workers announced an open-ended strike and chanted against administrative corruption, but their demands are not politicized.

In response, the company's administrative board announced a factory lock-out and a paid holiday from Thursday to Saturday. The company's security workers unsuccessfully struggled with the employees to keep the gates shut.

"Their aim is to thwart our strike, to shut the gates and to keep us outside to prevent us from protesting," said a worker who asked to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile military police have been turning away Egyptian and foreign journalists from the premises and forcing them to erase any photos. A military police captain told Al-Masry Al-Youm that journalists must get written permission from military intelligence to enter.

The recurring strikes led by workers at the Mahalla Textile Company--in December 2006, September 2007, and a thwarted strike in April 2008--have motivated millions of Egyptian workers and professionals to protest since early 2007. While Mahalla's textile workers made some gains through these strikes, a number of their demands were not met and many were later accused of being "instigators" or "strike leaders" and either fired or transferred.

The demands raised in this strike include: the resignation of Mohsen Gilani, president of the Holding Company for Spinning and Weaving, and three of the company's administrative chiefs--Fouad Hassan, Reda Siyam and Ibrahim Heiba--whom workers accuse of corruption and mismanagement; the dissolution of their trade union committee, which workers claim was fraudulently elected and doesn't represent them; elections for a new union; and the reinstatement of two fired workers accused of instigating strikes, along with five who were punitively relocated to distribution branches in Cairo and Alexandria.

Another unmet demand, which Mahalla's workers have been struggling for since 2006, is a minimum wage of LE1200 per month (roughly US$200). Workers are also demanding larger bonuses, improved contract agreements and opportunities for promotion.

"We're not leaving here and we're not calling off this strike until all our demands are met," said the same worker. "We've been putting forward these demands for years now, but the administration has disregarded them year after year. We only want our rights."

He hoped more workers would turn out on Thursday to put pressure on the company.

On Monday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued its fifth statement denouncing and warning against labor strikes: "Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results."

But military warnings have gone largely ignored as thousands of workers across Egypt continue to protest, including the police, whose salaries are expected to double because of their demonstrations.

*Photo by Mohamed al-Saeed

Egyptian Army Tortures Detainees

Egyptian military urged to halt torture of detainees

17 February 2011

Amnesty International has today urged the Egyptian military to take action to stop the use of torture and other ill treatment against detainees, amid fresh evidence of abuse.

The call comes as former detainees have told Amnesty International they were tortured, including by whipping and with electric shocks, after being detained by members of the military in the last days before President Mubarak stood down.

“The Egyptian military authorities have committed publicly to creating a climate of freedom and democracy after so many years of state repression. Now they must match their words with direct and immediate action,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The military authorities must intervene to end torture and other abuse of detainees, which we now know to have been taking place in military custody.”

Recently released detainees told Amnesty International researchers in Egypt that members of the armed forces used beatings, whipping and other forms of torture and other ill-treatment to intimidate protestors and to obtain information about plans for the protests.

“The authorities must immediately issue clear instructions to all security forces and members of the army that torture or other ill-treatment of detainees will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for these abuses will be held to account”, said Malcolm Smart.

One former detainee, a 29-year-old decorator from Gharbiya Province north of Cairo, told Amnesty International he was tortured by soldiers on 3 February in an annexe to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities:

“They called me a traitor and a foreign agent and forced me to take off my clothes except my underwear and to lie face down on the floor. Then they beat me with a whip and stepped with boots on my back and on my hands. They kicked me. Many other detainees there were also beaten with a whip”, he said.

After an interrogation by a man in plain clothes, the 29-year old, whose name is being withheld to protect his security, was beaten over the head with a chair by a soldier, leaving him unconscious.

He told Amnesty International that he was moved on 4 February to another location, where he was beaten, subjected to electric shocks and threatened with rape, and then taken to a military prison in El Heikstep, northeast of Cairo. He said he was regularly beaten by soldiers there until his release on 10 February.

In a separate case, an 18-year-old student from Cairo told Amnesty International that he was tortured at an unknown location after being arrested by soldiers near Tahrir Square on 3 February.

“They put a chain or rope to my legs and lifted me up – so that my head was hanging down. From time to time they would let me down into a barrel that was filled with water. They told me to confess that I was trained by Israel or by Iran. They also put electric shocks to my body and I fainted,” he said.

Amnesty International also spoke to relatives and friends of two brothers in their late twenties who are still being detained without charge in Tora prison, south of Cairo.

Arrested on 30 January by military police while carrying leaflets in support of the protests, they were held in the Nasser Military Academy in Cairo’s Agouza district, where they say they were whipped and subjected to electric shocks.

“The authorities must immediately disclose the names and whereabouts of all detainees and either release them promptly or charge them with recognizable criminal offences,” said Malcolm Smart.

“Those now in power must ensure that all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment are investigated promptly, thoroughly and impartially, that officials responsible for such abuses are brought to justice, and that victims receive full reparation.”

On 12 February the Supreme Military Council announced that Egypt would abide by its international treaties. Egypt has been a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1987.

Egyptians Defy Call To End Strikes

Egyptians defy call to end strikes

16 Feb 2011

Police are among those protesting, demanding higher wages and better conditions [AFP]

Airport and textile workers among those refusing to heed military's appeal not to protest.

Emboldened by the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last week, Egyptians have been airing grievances over issues ranging from low wages to police brutality and corruption.

Workers in banking, transport, oil, tourism, textiles, state-owned media and government bodies are striking to demand higher wages and better conditions, said Kamal Abbas of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers' Services.

Staff at Cairo airport and in the textile industry were among those who on Wednesday defied the call by Egypt's new military rulers to stop all protests.

While hundreds of airport employees protested inside the arrivals terminal for better wages and health coverage, in the industrial Nile Delta city of Mahallah al-Koubra, more than 12,000 workers at a state-owned textile factory went on strike over pay and calls for an investigation into alleged corruption at the factory.

In Port Said, a coastal city at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, about 1,000 people demonstrated to demand that a chemical factory be closed because it was dumping waste in a lake near the city.


In sectors not hit by strikes, the central bank's decision to keep banks closed was forcing many to scale back production because clients were unable to pay for the goods.

The military had urged Egyptians on Monday not to strike and appealing to their sense of national duty in what was seen as a final warning before an outright ban on strikes and protests.

Pro-democracy leaders plan a big "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the revolution.

Meanwhile, the health ministry said at least 365 people were killed during the 18-day uprising that began on January 25. It said 5,500 people had been treated for injuries and that the death toll could rise as the government is still gathering information.

Rights groups say hundreds are still missing after the protests.

Gamal Eid, a lawyer who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said: "There are hundreds of detained, but information on their numbers is still not complete ... The army was holding detainees."

In Tahrir Square, the focal point of the revolt, traffic flowed on Wednesday and some of the army tanks and armoured vehicles had been pulled back, although military armour remained in other Cairo locations.

Given the instability around the country, authorities decided to put back by another week the reopening of schools and universities across the country.

Schools and universities were just starting their midyear break when the protests broke out in January.


Some protest organisers said on Wednesday they had formed a "Council of Trustees" to negotiate on the country's transition to democracy with the ruling military council.

"The head of the regime is gone but the body of the regime is still here," Abdullah Al-Ashaal, a former ambassador and a university professor, told a new conference announcing the formation of the council. "I'm worried there is much uncertainty about this transitional period."

The council's membership includes political scientist Hassan Nafaa, Judge Zakaria Abdel-Aziz, Mohamed el-Beltagi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaled Abdel-Qader Ouda, an academic, author Alaa el-Aswany, and veteran television presenter Mahmoud Saad, among others.

Meanwhile, a committee set up to amend the constitution as a prelude to parliamentary and presidential elections in six months has met as the military dismantles mechanisms used
to maintain Mubarak's rule. The military council has already dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.

Egypt also imposed travel bans and froze the assets of another former cabinet minister and two more businessmen on Wednesday.

Egypt After Mubarak: Labor Strikes Escalate
Egypt After Mubarak: Labor Strikes Escalate

Feb 14, 2011

Sarah A. Topol

CAIRO, Egypt -- Employees of the bank, transport, tourism and police sectors, as well as factory workers, demonstrated today to demand better wages, contracts and benefits. As waves of labor strikes escalated across Egypt, the new military government took additional steps to subdue protesters while urging all stripes of demonstrators to go home.

The labor unrest continued to shut down parts of the country, thwarting the return to normal urged by the now all-powerful military, which took control of the country when President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday.

The armed forces have taken steps to control and appease the population, including opening a dialogue with youth activists who organized the initial demonstrations that continue to send shock waves throughout the Middle East.

The Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, a self-selected alliance of pro-democracy groups that organized the Jan. 25 protests, said today it met with military leaders Sunday night to discuss reforms.

Today, the coalition issued its demands for a transition to civilian rule by establishing a technocratic government within 30 days, saying a new legitimate government would better stop job walkouts.

"I think a lot of these strikes will be solved by changing the government, which I stressed on about the coalition government and how it should be quickly met," Shadi El Ghazaly, a leading member of the youth coalition, told reporters.

The group said the army had taken steps in the right direction by opening a dialogue with the coalition, but urged a 12-point reform program for the next six to nine months. The demands include a timeline for the end of a transitional period, the release of all political detainees and removing the three-decade-old emergency law.

The coalition set a 30-day deadline for a civilian technocratic council to replace the current cabinet, a remnant of Mubarak's time in office. It threatened continued demonstrations if its demands are not met.

"We are asking the government to choose them, but they know who we trust and we know who we don't trust," El Ghazaly told AOL News. "We're telling them [the military] the kind of people that we want, and we hope they will respect that."

A military statement read on television said Egypt needed a calmer climate in this "critical stage" to eventually transfer power to an elected civilian administration. It did not specify a date. It also warned that continued demonstrations would hurt the country's security and economy, giving power to "irresponsible parties" to commit "illegal acts," according to The Associated Press.

The youth coalition said it was planning on meeting the army again this week to continue to press demands, calling the first meeting a "zero point" to establish a dialogue. The group acknowledged that it does not represent everyone who demonstrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square but is a "channel" for dialogue with the new military government.

The coalition includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth, supporters of Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and independent activists. In a sign of the youth-led revolt, the group's demands also included lowering the age for parliamentarian candidates to 25 and for presidential candidates to 35. Currently, parliamentarian candidates must be at least 30 and presidential candidates 40.

On Sunday, the army suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament, both welcome moves to demonstrators who have been calling for new elections and a new constitution. The armed forces pledged that free and fair elections would be held under a revised constitution, but did not give a timetable.

The army also promised to lift the country's draconian state of emergency, but again did not specify a deadline, and said the cabinet, appointed by Mubarak last month, would remain in power.

The spontaneous protests initially drew strength from their disparate members, but with Egypt in transition, disagreement over the negotiation process with the military continues to emerge. Some doubt the sincerity of the army, which formed the backbone of Mubarak's 30-year regime, and disapprove of negotiating with the top of the command chain.

"Now the military junta are making more or less useless statements which do not really say anything, except that they are the ones in charge, giving us promises about the transition to democracy," said Hossam El Hamalawy, a journalist and prominent blogger on workers' movements. "They are now warning against so-called chaos instigated by industrial actions. However, let's remember ... the working class are the ones who toppled Mubarak.

"Those striking Egyptian workers are not going home anytime soon. They cannot go home to their starving children to tell them the military promised us that they will solve our problems within X number of months. These are both economic and political demands by the working class that have to be met immediately," El Hamalawy said. "These strikes constitute our only hope that we have a revolution that's unfinished, to be completed."

*Photo by Mohammed Abed, AFP

Monday, February 14, 2011

Workers demand dissolution of state-run trade union federation

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Workers demand dissolution of state-run trade union federation
Monday, Feb. 14, 2011

Jano Charbel

Around 500 workers and labor activists congregated outside the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) on Monday to demand the federation’s dissolution. Protesters gathered at 4 PM and chanted slogans calling for the right to conduct peaceful labor strikes, the trial of ETUF leaders, and the right to establish independent unions.

"The federation is a den of thieves; the federation is a group of thugs," protesters chanted. Dozens attempted to storm and occupy the ETUF headquarters at around 5 PM. ETUF security responded by beating protesters out of the building, which led to rocks being thrown back and forth. ETUF employees and security began to hurl bottles, sticks and rocks from the floors above, injuring a number of protesters and journalists.

An army jeep drove up to the shattered gates of the ETUF headquarters, and a soldier and officer brandishing guns stepped out and pushed the opposing factions away from each other. Three ETUF employees involved in the melee were detained for questioning.

The officer called on three representatives from among the protesters to spell out their demands. Meanwhile, protesters chanted, "The people demand the removal of the federation," while others held up signs reading, "Put on trial those responsible for profiteering from privatization." The largest number of workers in attendance were those from the independent Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees (RETA Union.)

RETA Union President Kamal Abu Eita grabbed a megaphone and spelled out the demands. "We demand the dissolution of the federation. We call on general prosecutor to freeze the accounts of [ETUF President] Hussein Megawer and all other federation officials. We demand the right to establish independent trade unions and official recognition of these free unions."

Megawer and his finances are currently being investigated by the general prosecutor's office. The ETUF president has been prevented from leaving the country until these investigations are concluded.

On February 6, the independent Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services (CTUWS) filed a lawsuit against Megawer on charges of misappropriating funds and misrepresenting workers and unions. CTUWS Director Kamal Abbas told protesters outside the ETUF that "this Federation no longer represents Egypt's workers or unions." He demanded the swift investigation of Megawer's finances and those of other ETUF officials.

Abbas added: "On January 30, a new independent federation was established including the Unions of the Real Estate Tax Authority, the Egyptian Health Technologists' Syndicate, the independent Teachers' Syndicate, and the Pensioners' Syndicate. This is the only legitimate trade union federation in Egypt."

All of the aforementioned unions and syndicates were established over the course of the last two years, independent of the ETUF. Egypt's trade unions have been under state control since 1957. Since then, only two labor strikes have been authorized, while independent trade unions have been harassed and their activities obstructed. The federation has 24 general unions, 22 of which are presided over by members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

The ETUF had planned to postpone its elections this year in order to support the re-election of President Mubarak, and so as not to overlap with presidential elections slated for later this year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Revolutionary Street Art & Graffiti in Downtown Cairo

Since the very beginning of the Egyptian uprising on January 25th, youth activists have been painting, spray-painting and etching their revolutionary messages on to the walls, streets, police-trucks and tanks in downtown Cairo.

Unfortunately, many of these fine pieces of revolutionary artwork are being covered-up and painted-over. I recommend taking photos and posting them on-line in order to preserve these messages and images.

Anti-Mubarak graffiti spray-painted on burnt-down riot police truck, and wall of burnt-down NDP headquarters.

Revolutionary graffiti near Talaat Harb Square.

Caricatures of Dictator Mubarak etched and drawn upon to the sides of burnt-down riot-police truck. Tahrir Square, Omar Makram.

"Down with Mubarak" and "Down with Mubarak the Agent" reads the graffiti on this armored personnel carrier. Tahrir Square.

Mural painted on wall along Mohamed Mahmoud Street - Freedom of Expression.

Egyptian youth celebrate the revolution and downfall of Dictator Mubarak.

Army & military police forcefully disperse Tahrir Sq. Protest

The massive revolutionary celebrations in Tahrir Square over the past two days began to fizzle out by Saturday night. By Sunday morning only around 5,000 protesters remained encamped within the square - demanding democratic reforms, and specific timetables for these reforms.

Dozens of military police forces were deployed in Tahrir Square, by Qasr al-Aini Street, at around 7am on Sunday (Feb. 13.) The vast majority of protesters had left Tahrir Square by Saturday night.

Around 8am - hundreds of military troops armed with machine-guns moved in to clear open the streets around Tahrir Square.

By 9am these armed forces moved into the protesters' campsites and tore down tents using knives and bayonets.

Protesters who resisted were beaten, detained or arrested. Journalists, and especially photographers, were harassed. A Japanese photo-journalist was injured in his head as he refused to hand over his camera.

The army is not a democratic institution; thus democracy is never expected to emanate from the armed forces, but from civil society.

Armed forces tore down the tents and banners of peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square. Dozens of detentions and arrests were reported.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 18: The Revolution

Since January 25th, Egypt has witnessed nationwide street protests, a popular uprising, and today a revolution. Egyptians are capable of reclaiming their rights and freedoms, and remaking a civil society that is independently and democratically organized.

This revolution has flung the door open to social liberation, progressive changes, and a whole new world of possibilities. The Egyptian people must seize the opportunity, and take power back from the military-institution and from corrupt businessmen/politicians.

In the early afternoon (Feb. 11) Egyptian youth converged upon the Presidential Palace of Al-'Orouba in Cairo to demand the dictator's resignation.

Thousands protested against Mubarak while the Republican Guard, with its tanks and troops, sealed off the palace. Vice President Omar Suleiman delivered a public address in the late afternoon announcing Mubarak's resignation, and his own. A military council is to serve as caretaker, until a new government is elected.

Millions of Egyptians burst into cheers and tears, hugs and songs upon hearing the news of the Dictator's flight. Streets were instantly flooded with protesters, cars, and flags.

Tahrir Square is the heart of the uprising, and the center of celebrations.

Tahrir Square, Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, Saad Zaghloul Square, Talaat Harb Square and their side-streets were congested with millions of jubilant Egyptians.

Well over 5 million protesters poured into Tahrir Square and its surrounding streets to celebrate Mubarak's downfall. Millions of others celebrated across the country.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Uprising in Cairo - Day 17

Estimates suggest that three million Egyptians descended upon Cairo's Tahrir Square, on Day 17 of the popular uprising. Despite the rain and cold weather, hundreds of thousands came and went through this "liberated territory."

By the afternoon (Thurs. Feb. 10) Egyptians received news that Mubarak would address the people in a public statement. This led to expectations, hopes and rumors of the dictator's resignation throughout Tahrir Square.

Patriot songs and waving-flags filled the air. Food, drinks and cigarettes are sold along stands throughout Tahrir Square. Many in attendance described it as a carnival.

Thousands of demonstrators camped, protested, chanted, chatted and picnicked along the "newly liberated territory" outside parliament- the People's Assembly Street.

Countless thousands of jubilant Egyptians chanted for the downfall of Mubarak and his regime as they waited for the dictator to announce his official resignation. Being the stubborn old man that he is, Mubarak refused to step down; but symbolically delegated presidential powers to his puppet Omar Suleiman.

Protesters were told to get ready for the multi-million man march on Friday (Feb. 11,) while Street artists decorated the governmental Mogamma' building with political and patriotic graffiti.

"Beautiful is my country" reads this political piece of street art.